A Return To Relevance … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs

From St. Louis, Missouri

For three years it was the Bermuda Triangle of professional football. The 250 miles from Arrowhead Stadium to the Edward Jones Dome was devoid of NFL victories as competent football disappeared in waves of losing.

In the 2007-08-09 seasons, the Chiefs and Rams, along with the Detroit Lions were the worst teams in the league. St. Louis had a 6-42 record, Detroit was 9-39 and the Chiefs finished 10-38.

But the winds of change blew down I-70 and almost two full years after major remodeling in both the Chiefs and Rams franchises, they are NFL teams that are relevant again. They are a combined 14-12.

And Sunday, they face each other at the Edward Jones Dome. Kickoff is just after 12 noon with television coverage from CBS with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts on the microphones.

Four months ago it would have seemed silly to have predicted that in the 15th week of the regular season these teams would roll into this Governor’s Cup match-up with something on the line. Both teams are fighting for division titles. The Chiefs begin the day on top of the AFC West with an 8-5 record. San Diego is chasing them, and already has this week’s outcome included in their 8-6 record. If the Chiefs win all three of their remaining games, they will be division champions for the first time since 2003.  

The Rams are 6-7 and tied for first place in the ugly NFC West where none of the four teams sports more victories than defeats. To control their immediate post-season future they must win the last three games and that will give them the division championship over the Seahawks. Those teams meet in the final week of the regular season.

Second-year head coaches Todd Haley (12-17) and Steve Spagnuolo (7-22) have both had to work hard to change the atmosphere around these teams. They are far from finished, but they’ve made progress.

“They are a team that’s not a lot different than us that has been a little downtrodden that’s now starting to make some progress, it is clear to see,” Haley said of the Rams. “You can clearly see this is a well-coached team, they’re getting better, they’ve had a couple big-timers that are still around starting with RB Steven Jackson that’s as good as any back in the league.”

The Rams 53-man roster has 35 players that have been added in the last two seasons. The Chiefs 53-man roster has 34 players that have been added in 2009-10.

Both of these teams are mentally in the post-season mode.

“I would say that this game is probably one of the bigger games we’ve played this year, and the fact that we’re still playing in big games in mid-December, I think that’s really good for this team and this organization,” said St. Louis rookie QB Sam Bradford. “Hopefully the games will only continue to get bigger.”

Bradford has had a strong rookie season, completing 60.3 percent of his passes for an average of 6.08 yards per attempt. He’s thrown 17 TD passes against 12 INTs and now has a 79.1 passer rating.

“I think he has done a very nice job with what they are asking him to do,” said defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. “He is in that offense where he gets the ball out of his hands and into the hands of his playmakers and he is doing that. The guys are getting open for him and he has a couple guys that he depends on and counts on and he goes to those guys. He is doing a really good job. He manages the game well, he has the ability to move if the guys are covered and he can get outside the pocket and get away from the rush. I am impressed with what I see.”

Haley was impressed during preparations for the 2010 NFL Draft when he looked closely at Bradford, even though he knew there was little chance he would be available to the Chiefs with the fifth pick in the first round.

“I think he has a lot of those qualities that you can’t quite measure,” Haley said. “He is a natural leader and you see that moxie on the field and in the games. On top of that he has the physical attributes to be a good player. He throws the ball very well, he is accurate and he is obviously tough. He is leading their team and doing a good job.”

The Chiefs arrived in St. Louis and they still were not revealing who would start at quarterback. Either they truly did not know, or it’s a continuation of the team’s gymnastics with information about their players. Whether Matt Cassel is recovered enough from his appendectomy to perform at a winning level is not something anyone in the public knows, and possibly something those with the team are not sure about. Obviously, if he can’t play then that will put Brodie Croyle back into the starting lineup.

Things did not go well last Sunday in San Diego for Croyle and the Chiefs offense, but the backup quarterback does not deserve all the blame. The inability to run the football, something they had been able to do all season, killed any chance the offense had. That, and the defense’s inability to stop the Chargers running game, giving up 207 yards on the ground killed the team’s opportunity to win that division game.

With one of the best running backs in the NFL over the last decade wearing a St. Louis uniform, why would the K.C. defense expect to see anything but the Rams running game?

“We have to understand that if a team will commit to the run then we also have to commit to stopping it with our technique by staying lower at the line of scrimmage, being more physical at the line of scrimmage to give ourselves a chance,” said Crennel. “If we don’t do that then generally it turns out that we won’t have a chance because it opens up some other stuff also.”

Stopping the run has been a struggle in the last two games, but it remains the No. 1 objective of the Chiefs defense.

“Always, always,” Haley said of defending the run. “Last week we struggled stopping the run. The week before we struggled against Denver stopping the run. It’s one of those things that you see sometimes with protections; whether it’s pass protection, field goal protection, punt protection. This is a copycat league and when you put on tape of some of those games, you’re going to get attacked and you’re going to have to prove that you can stop the run.

“St. Louis is an efficient running team, they’re a very well-balanced attack, and they have one of the best backs in the league so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

NFL PERSONNEL FILE FOR SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18

  • PACKERS – ruled starting QB Aaron Rodgers out of Sunday’s game against the Patriots due to the ramifications from a concussion that he continues to suffer from; signed QB Graham Harrell off their practice squad.
  • PATRIOTS – signed DB Tony Carter off their practice squad; released CB Chevis Jackson.
  • VIKINGS – ruled starting QB Brett Favre out of Monday night’s game against the Bears due to continued problems with his right shoulder; named Joe Webb to start at QB on Monday night.

One Response to “A Return To Relevance … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs”

  • December 19, 2010  - KC_Guy says:

    And that should put an end to the Favre saga.
    What a way to close down a great career on a bitter note. Well, he asked for it.




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